In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Race, Ethnicity, Crime, and Justice

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Data Sources
  • Violent Crime
  • Drug Offenses
  • Sentencing
  • Incarceration
  • Youth Crime
  • Police and Policing

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Criminology Race, Ethnicity, Crime, and Justice
Ramiro Martínez
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 December 2009
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0053


The study of race, ethnicity, crime, and justice usually involves research on racial and ethnic differences in crime and justice patterns or the overrepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system. Despite recognition that racial and ethnic variations in crime and justice exist, our knowledge on the sources and consequences of this linkage is incomplete. In part this is because the categories of race and ethnicity are evolving. Also, some of the racial and ethnic categories reported by criminal justice agencies are limited or require refinement. For example, some agencies do not always use the same racial and ethnic categories, particularly with respect to Latinos/Hispanics, and code victims or offenders as either white or black. Nevertheless, although current knowledge is limited, there is still a large body of research on the relationships among race, ethnicity, crime, and justice. Criminologists tend to favor examining the impact of racial or ethnic composition, net of other social and economic factors, on violent crimes such as homicide across cities, or they will examine racial- or ethnic-specific outcomes across communities. Some social scientists also examine the effects of race and ethnicity by examining the relationship between the police and racial and ethnic minorities, or perhaps variations in sentencing and incarceration in prisons, jails, and halfway houses. However one chooses to examine race, ethnicity, crime, and justice, there are considerable racial and ethnic disparities concerning this topic across the United States.

General Overviews

Several texts and books on race, ethnicity, crime, and justice are available. Peterson, et al. 2006 covers a variety of original research using various data sources and can be used as a supplemental book in survey courses in criminology or criminal justice, or as an anchor text in more specialized courses on race, ethnicity, crime, and justice. For graduate students and researchers new to the ethnicity area, Martinez 2002 offers a comprehensive overview and discussion of data strengths and limitations in immigration and violence. Gabbidon and Greene 2005 also provides graduate students and researchers new to the race, ethnicity, and crime area a well-rounded look at both historical and recent research. Walker, et al. 2007 offers a broad look at current research and theories of racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination within America’s criminal justice system. Although over ten years old, Hawkins 1995 remains important for any researcher and provides a strong foundation for students and researchers interested in race, ethnicity, and crime from a cross-national perspective.

  • Gabbidon, Shaun L., and Helen Taylor Greene, eds. 2005. Race, crime, and justice: A reader. New York and London: Routledge.

    An overview of pioneering and recent research on race, ethnicity, crime, and justice from a criminological perspective. Suitable for advanced undergraduate and graduate courses.

  • Hawkins, Darnell F., ed. 1995. Ethnicity, race, and crime: Perspectives across time and place. Albany: State University of New York Press.

    A comprehensive edited volume with a strong historical and contemporary emphasis. Covers original research on the development of ethnicity, race, and crime.

  • Martinez, Ramiro Jr. 2002. Latino homicide: Immigration, violence, and community. New York: Routledge.

    An accessible overview of theory, types of homicide, and detailed research findings. Suitable for undergraduate and graduate courses.

  • Peterson, Ruth D., Lauren J. Krivo, and John Hagan, eds. 2006. The many colors of crime: Inequalities of race, ethnicity, and crime in America. New York: New York University Press.

    An outline of original research on race, ethnicity, crime, and justice from social science perspectives. Suitable for advanced undergraduate and graduate courses.

  • Walker, Samuel, Cassia Spohn, and Miriam DeLone. 2007. The color of justice: Race, ethnicity, and crime in America. 4th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

    A comprehensive text suitable for undergraduate courses.

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